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Ohio forward Tyler Harkins (22) gets tripped up while skating in the offensive zone during the Bobcats hockey game on Saturday, January 11, 2020, at Bird Arena in Athens, Ohio.

Hockey: Cole Bell is working hard to get his players back on the ice

Cole Bell’s heart dropped when the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament was canceled in March. 

It was his first season as the head coach of Ohio’s hockey team, which had a strong 24-8-4 record going into the tournament. What should have been a grand sendoff to Ohio’s seniors, some of whom played in the National Championship loss to Central Oklahoma in 2017, was cut short when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world.  

Bell understood the situation but couldn’t help but feel disappointed.  

“We felt really good about our team,” Bell said. “We thought we had a chance to win.” 

He still remembers the looks on his seniors’ faces when he told them the news himself in Bird Arena’s locker room. Their final season had come to an end, and they didn’t even get a proper sendoff.  

It’ll never be known how Bell’s debut season would’ve concluded, and now his second season’s status is up in the air after the team announced its season’s postponement in August.  

Bell was hopeful for the season to start on time, but like the tournament being canceled, he wasn’t surprised by the news. At the time, the Mid-American Conference had already postponed the rest of Ohio’s fall sports, and there were plenty of universities closing in-person classes all around the country.  

“It certainly didn’t surprise me,” Bell said.  

Now, Bell is working hard with Ohio University to make a planned spring schedule a reality for the Bobcats. He does his job because he loves the game and loves the players to be on the ice together and be a part of the team, which Bell describes as a special group.  

Those players have worked hard to get to where they are today, and Bell wants the seniors to be able to experience the position they’ve waited so long to be in. He also feels confident that many of his younger players from last year have improved and can make a bigger impact on the team.  

The situation with college athletics is fluid, so the status for the season is still up in the air. If one looks around the country right now, however, they might see reason some hope for a season.  

All over the country, high school, college and professional sports are active, with some of them doing a near perfect job of containing the coronavirus. The NHL was able to hold a bubble in Canada and successfully host the annual Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the ACHA might not go as far as to create its own bubble, it’s been proven that hockey can be played in the country’s current state. 

Bell feels there are ways to have a season and remain safe. He knows it would mean a lot to the players and provide them an excellent opportunity not only to have fun and be together, but also learn life lessons they can carry into whatever career they pursue.  

That being said, the future is still hard to predict. 

“I think the biggest thing we found out over the last six months is that we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow,” Bell said. “It’s a tough situation to handle.” 

Above all else, health and safety are the first priorities for Bell and OU. As disappointed as he and his players were after the postponement was announced, they knew everyone’s health was more important than their love of being on the ice.  

“You have to keep everybody’s health and safety in mind when making these kinds of decisions,” Bell said.

Regardless of what ends up happening in the next season, whether it be in the spring or the next fall, Bell has one message for OU hockey fans.  

“Stay with us,” Bell said. “Once we get going here, we’re going to do everything we can to bring Ohio hockey to you. We certainly appreciate all of our fans, supporters, boosters, families and alumni. It’s them that make this place special.” 


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